Originally published on April 15, 2011
Broken Social Scene
April 13th at the Warfield, San Francisco
Before heading down for their weekend performance at Coachella, the Toronto indie band Broken Social Scene made a stop in San Francisco to rock the Warfield. Their Wednesday night show drew a crowd of fans that did not go home disappointed, as the band played an invigorating two-hour set of old favorites, as well as cuts off their highly acclaimed 2010 release Forgiveness Rock Record. The numerous musicians jumped around to different instruments in between virtually every song, creating a frenzied atmosphere in the venue.
Broken Social Scene started out as an instrumental project between Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, but quickly grew into a much larger entity. Their desire for a more vibrant live show led them to invite members of the Toronto indie rock scene to appear in performances and recordings. These musicians jammed with Broken Social Scene as a side project, and thus the band became a collective of musicians that would come and go, with sometimes up to 19 people playing together. Many songs started as jam sessions with different musicians riffing off one another, and the situation made it easy for new ideas to continuously be put into play. This idea of constant collaboration could have ended up as dissonant noise, but instead the music meshes beautifully together to create many-layered tracks of doubled, tripled, or sometimes even quadrupled instrument parts placed with multiple melodies.
After the set change from the opening band Dominant Legs concluded, a happy Brendan Canning bounded across the stage, eager to start the show. The band launched into a riff heavy performance of “Texico Bitches” after an opening instrumental jam. During the opening songs, the band seemed to multiply, as new guitarists and percussionists kept coming out to the stage to join the fray. My favorite song of theirs, “7/4 Shoreline”, was played early on in the set. As the title suggests, the song has the irregular time signature of 7/4 (seven beats per measure). I really admire it when a band steps out of the normal 4/4 time signature used in almost every other pop song; it shows innovative musicianship. Other notable songs enjoyed by the head-bobbing audience included “Fire Eye’d Boy”, “World Sick”, and “Art House Director” (featuring choreographed dancing by the horn section!).
Kevin Drew sang the majority of the songs that night, but he may have been outshined by Lisa Lobsinger in her featured tracks. The only woman currently on tour with the band, she captivated the audience with her crystal clear vocals in the spot on performance of “All to All.” It received the most cheers for the night, and it really was a beautiful song. She also sang “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”, perhaps the band’s most well-known song. While watching that particular song, it is easy to imagine Broken Social Scene’s compositions being born in jam sessions bit by bit, starting with a simple melody and then building with gradual additions of extra guitars, horns, and percussion. It was a great experience to see the progression of their songs in a live setting.
Broken Social Scene finished up the night with an encore that did not involve them leaving the stage. Drew said that “there was no time for that BS,” and they played straight through their set to the end to get as many songs in as they could. They covered Modest Mouse’s “World at Large”, which sounded very true to the original. After a couple more selections, Drew and Canning invited the whole audience out drinking to the after party for the Animal Collective show that took place the same night. The band’s high spirits and desire to put on a good concert made for an exciting night of Canadian indie rock, and the enthusiastic audience no doubt gave a good send off to the band on their way to Coachella.